Literature Review On The Road Not Taken essay example
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Literature Review On The Road Not Taken

Presentation and Analysis of two literary works – Reflections on the way both literary works ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘A Worn Path’ representing different writing kinds, a poem and a short story respectively, approach the same thematic core, the one of a Journey’s Symbolism – Comparison and contrast of both works in terms of their context, writing style, underlying meaning


This paper will present you with a comparison and contrast of two literary works. Both the literary works which have been chosen, belong to the same theme, the one of a journey’s symbolism. The first work which will be presented is a poem written by Robert Frost in 1920. It is ‘The Road not taken’. The second literary work is a short story titled ‘A Worn Path’ written by Eudora Welty and first published in February 1941. These two works are characterized by two main differences. The first one is the literary kind they represent. The first one is a poem whereas the second one is a short story. Their second main difference which is perceived at first glance is their year of publication. There are twenty – one (21) years which keep these works apart. Nevertheless, both works approach the same thematic core. Their thematic core is that of a journey. A journey in which a symbolism lies, like in almost any kind of a journey which is presented in literature. The theme of a journey is one which has attracted writers and poets throughout the years since it is a theme in which the meaning of humans’ journey in their lives lies. Life has been considered as a journey whose duration, goal, means of doing it, experiences gathered during its duration, are all elements which consist what human nature has always been trying to define as the meaning of their life. Life’s journey has been approached in numerous ways by various fields such as mythology, religion, philosophy, anthropology and sociology. But the way literature talks to people’s heart is different from the above mentioned fields due to its trait of remaining unchangeable. When Latins said that ‘scripta manent’ – a Latin saying meaning that ‘written works are here to stay’ – referred to this trait of each written work to remain alive in its readers’ hearts. This is the reason why this paper has chosen to present you with these two literary works on this theme. They are two works which still talk to their readers’ hearts about a theme which is of universal and eternal interest. The paper will present the analysis of each work separately and it will result in comparing and contrasting their main differences in style, in ways of approaching their theme, in the meaning which underlies their words and images. Their comparison is not made aiming at proving one work better than the other. Each literary work attracts to its uniquely passionate reading audience. Their comparison is to be presented in order to prove something which is often shared as a common piece of knowledge but may have not been really realized yet. There are some unique values, themes and issues in life which no matter their year or their way of being approached, no matter their differences as far as their being presented is concerned, will always share their common truth. They will keep arising questions and leading people’s thoughts to move a step forward realizing that despite their origins, their generation and their background, they all share common dilemmas, thoughts and feelings.
Key words: journey, woods, path, ‘The Road not Taken’, ‘A Worn Path’

Presentation and Analysis of two literary works – Reflections on the way both literary works ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘A Worn Path’ representing different writing kinds, a poem and a short story respectively, approach the same thematic core, the one of a Journey’s Symbolism – Comparison and contrast of both works in terms of their context, writing style, underlying meaning

‘The Road not Taken’ is the story of a man and his choice of a road. It is a poem written in four stanzas. Each stanza is in the rhyme scheme ABAAB.

Robert Frost, the poet who wrote this poem is one of the most popular poets within the borders of the literary community. Defusco (1999) informs readers in her book ‘Readings on Robert Frost’ that the themes met in Frost’s poetry are ‘Youth and Loss of Innocence’, in which the procedure of aging in combination with the realization about mistakes made during the careless years of youth are examined, ‘Nature’ which is presented as one of people’s greater teacher. Nature has a lot to teach people and it always keeps its powerful mystery no matter how much people have conquered it. It seems that nature is approached by Frost in a way to offer people with his benefit from approaching it. Nature can live one to his / her self-knowledge since every mystery when studied gives one the admiration and questions on its existence and function. Travelers in the meaning of isolated people who dare to wander around looking for their own knowledge, for acquiring new experiences and becoming better people, is a very popular motif of Frost’s poetry as well. The poet seems to have developed great admiration to those who dare to look for the ways to make their dreams come true through trying to pave their own path in life.
According to Oster (1991) in her ‘Toward Robert Frost : The Reader and the Poet’, Frost’s time period is a period which has left behind a great part of the principles of Romanticism as a literary movement and has opened new windows to realism as a means of depicting people’s problems, agonies, internal struggles. There is allegory in Frost’s poetry and the romantic elements and descriptions of his poems are all under the service of their unique symbolic reality.

When seen under this perspectives, ‘The Road not Taken’ can be seen for what it really meant to say according to the poet’s will. Brodsky, Seamus and Derek (1996) highlight that no one can really know what a poet has in mind when writing a poet, but the case of Frost is different. Frost became famous and so greatly loved while living, so there is no possibility he himself would have left any reviews of his work wrongly stated. The only weird fact concerning Frost is that he became so greatly loved without really being understood by his readers for what he really wanted to say. It seems that people felt attracted to Frost’s poems without really perceiving the message the poet had in mind.

Something like that probably is valid for the poem ‘The Road not Taken’. Most readers of this poem stay stuck to the image of a road taken by the narrator who probably when reaching his last years in life, felt remorse and now all he wants to do is share these kind of second thoughts concerning his choice, with his readers.

But this is not exactly the case of the poem ‘In ‘the Road not Taken’. In this poem the reader meets a man standing in front of two roads. The opening image of the poem is that of a man standing there, before ‘two roads diverged in a yellow wood’. In the first stanza the narrator addresses the reader in first person and shares his experience ‘And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood’.The motif of the isolated traveler, of the wanderer who draws his life and makes his own way is here, vivid and alive.

The traveler stands before two roads and he seems to have not got the slightest idea on which road to pick so that he can go on with his journey. The whole procedure of looking for the right answer in himself, is depicted in the following stanzas of the poem. ‘And he looked down, one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth / Then took the other, as just as fair / And having perhaps the better claim’ writes Frost in his second stanza.

The reader witnesses the traveler’s dilemma for real. Both roads are so alike. They are similar so there is really no way to make the right or wrong choice. The reader gets the impression that one road must be chosen so one is chosen just by luck. Both roads opening their paths in front of the narrator seem equally worn, since ‘Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same / And both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.’

So the narrator chooses one of the two roads appearing exactly the same and reaches his last years of life in the last stanza where he shares a kind of confession with his readers. ‘ I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence / Two roads diverged in a wood and I – / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’
So the narrator shares his personal truth. He will say that the road he chose was the less traveled by. This is something he will say with a sigh. Why? Because he really does not know whether or not he should have chosen another path.

It seems that Frost aims at raising the question which still remains unanswered. When people are asked to choose their paths, what is the most crucial factor affecting their choices? And the most important question lies in one’s choice is what would have happened differently if one had chosen something else than what he first chose.

The narrator of the poem seems to feel puzzled and not be able to give an answer to this question. He probably wants to say that the journey of one’s life is in a way predestined by factors which are not and cannot be predestined by humans. There is this mystery in human life predefined by mysterious forces like fate and luck. There is even lots to be said in the field of how free one is to choose paths and routes in his / her life. According to the narrator there is really no need in feeling remorse for our choices, in feeling that if one path had been chosen differently things would have come out different.

The narrator seems to believe that either way the painful truth remains. Noone can ever know for sure what his / her life would be like if chosen differently. It could be better or it could be worse. But there is always a sigh when looking back in life. There is this sigh as a means of defending against the possibility that one failed because he chose this particular path and not the other.
One way or the other the journey in life remains the same in terms of entailing equal difficulties, failures, and / or successes. This is what the journey in life is according to Frost.
Presentation and Analysis of two literary works – Reflections on the way both literary works ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘A Worn Path’ representing different writing kinds, a poem and a short story respectively, approach the same thematic core, the one of a Journey’s Symbolism – Comparison and contrast of both works in terms of their context, writing style, underlying meaning

‘A Worn Path’

‘A Worn Path’ is a short story whose main theme is that of a journey once more. But the journey here, its nature, its goal and its description is greatly different from the journey of the poem by Robert Frost.
Eudora Welt according to Chamberlain (1998) is a writer whose style ‘combines delicacy with shrewd, robust humor. The mixture of realism and fantasy in some of her stories gives them mythical quality. Her major themes extend beyond the South – loneliness, the pain of growing up, and the need for people to understand themselves and their neighbors.’
The main leading person of this short story’s plot is an old black lady, Phoenix Jackson. Even her name ‘Phoenix’ brings mythological allusions to mind since according to Greek mythology ‘Phoenix’ was the symbol of a strong bird which when reaching the end of its life had the ability to be reborn through its ashes.
Phoenix Jackson is admired by the readers throughout the plot of the story since she keeps on walking through the wild woods despite the difficulties, her age and her feeling so tired in order to reach the town of Natchez. This is the town where she goes once in a while to get the medicine for her ill grandson.

When the medicine is over she begins her journey which is repeated every once in a while in order to manage to save her grandson’s life. The most surprising feature of the story is the underlying fact, the suspicion given to the reader by the reaction of those accepting her in the doctor’s office who seem to be aware of the fact that her grandson has been dead for a while. Yet Phoenix Jackson does not seem to have come in terms with this painful truth therefore she keeps repeating her journey and she takes the medicine she needs for her grandson who suffers from ‘lay’.
The concept of the journey in this short story by Eudora Welty is approached through the need for reaching a specific goal. This grandmother is the symbol of any person who decides to finish the route he / she has taken in order to complete his / her initial goal. Her strength is admirable and provides readers with the courage to learn to go after their goals and dreams and not give up what they have set in mind.
It is a story of love, of not giving up. Of making sure that those one loves are provided with his /her care. The journey entails numerous mythological elements which are used by Welty as Appel, A. (1965) mentions in his book ‘A Season of Dreams: The fiction of Eudora Welty’. in order to give the concept of the journey this mythical and powerful aura that life’s journey is supposed to hold.

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Both the above mentioned and analyzed literary works hold a significant place in their readers’ hearts and they talk to them in their own unique, individual way. Their main difference lies as portrayed in the nature that is attributed to the journey. The journey of the unnamed narrator in the poem is a journey whose goal and aim is left at the free will of each reader to be defined. The journey which is made by Phoenix in the short story, is a journey whose goal is specific.
One thing is certain though. Both journeys no matter their being strictly and definitely defined or not, they hold their own magic and significant value. They represent the symbolic meaning life can have as humans’ journey on earth. Each individual is free to define and organize his / her journey according to his / her personal wishes, dreams, goals, aims, needs. Equally, each person is individually responsible for dealing with the difficulties entailed in his / her journey and dealing successfully with it.
Traveling with or without company is something that humans experience since the time of their birth. This is their common fate. But there is their free will to ‘dress’ their travelling’ with their own individuality.


Appel, A. (1965) ‘A Season of Dreams: The fiction of Eudora Welty’. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisian State University Press
Brodsky, J., Seamus H. and Derek W. (1996), Homage to Robert Frost. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Bloom, H., (1986), ed.Modern Critical Views: Robert Frost. New York: Chelsea House Publishers
Chamberlain, M. (1998), ed. ‘Writing Lives: Conversations Between Women Writers’. Chapter on Welty, London: Virago Press Ltd.
Defusco, A. (1999), Readings on Robert Frost, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc.
Oster, J. (1991), Toward Robert Frost: The Reader and the Poet. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgis Press

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